D&D 5eHistory of the Classes

Unearthed Arcana Breakdown: The Ranger, Revised

In today’s Unearthed Arcana article, Mearls returns to one of the most hotly discussed topics of 5e design: the ranger. This isn’t UA’s first take on an alternate ranger, either – and the blogging/third-party-publishing community has followed suit. That previous article lays out a lot of what WotC sees as The Issues, but the solution they presented was not particularly celebrated in the conversations I saw about it. To be fair, though, the core of the problem is that there’s probably less consensus on the ranger’s identity as a class than any other class in the game. In this article, I’m picking apart what I see in the document.

Over the past few days, Mearls has teased this article (game designers can be so cruel!) in his Twitter feed, so about like you’d expect, I’ve been on tenterhooks. Now that we can see the whole thing, I have a lot more context! It turns out that this revision is about 90% redefinition of features and 10% new content, which is interesting. The good side of this is that rules outside the ranger class, such as magic items, can still reference the names of ranger features for both the Original Ranger and the Extra Cripsy Ranger. The downside the same idea in reverse – when referring to features, if you only want to talk about the Original Favored Enemy feature, it requires constant clarification.

Let’s look at what’s been redefined. One of the biggest changes is that Favored Enemy got split into Favored Enemy and Greater Favored Enemy. Where Original grants three favored enemies (at 1st, 6th, and 14th), Extra Crispy grants one choice from one list at 1st, and one choice from a second, more fantastical and high-powered list at 6th. The first list only offers beasts, fey, humanoids, monstrosities, and undead. Treating “humanoids” as a single type for this purpose is straight-out shocking, and I can’t help but hope that gets split up a bit in final form. I expect that in most campaigns, humanoids are by far and away the most common foes throughout the course of play; undead are a somewhat distant second place. (Obviously, no statement is true for all games.)

The other big change is that the feature grants a flat +2 to damage rolls with weapon attacks against your favored enemy. A small and easily forgotten flat add? That seems like an odd violation of 5e’s general style. I’m not sure what the thinking is here, except that Mearls tweeted mentioning that the ranger is balanced on the assumption they’re never getting this bonus. I’ll have to hope for more commentary on this point once there’s a poll and a response.

A much smaller change is that you learn a new language, and it can be any language, not just one associated with the favored enemy. That sounds kind of weird, but it makes sense when you consider that most beasts and monstrosities (and many undead) don’t have the power of speech, much less a language of their own. Gaining a new language may not be a major mechanical advantage in the average campaign, but this change does solve that minor inequality.

Next up is another big change: Natural Explorer. This feature is one of my major sticking points in the Original ranger, and I am immensely pleased that they’ve reworked it here. Specifically, rangers are now good in all terrains, once they’ve traveled in them for an hour. This is a huge improvement over being useful in one terrain type out of eight, eventually scaling up to three out of eight. It reflects adaptability as a core element of the ranger’s training, and I love that. It also goes a lot further, and this is pretty amazing to see.

  • Free passage through difficult terrain got looted from Land’s Stride.
  • Advantage on initiative rolls is very nice. For a class that may be Dex-focused, even nicer.
  • Advantage on attacks against enemies that haven’t acted yet is amazing. It’s half of the Assassin rogue’s Assassinate feature. This results in a ranger that is a phenomenal one-level dip for Thief or Arcane Trickster rogues – going first more reliably and gaining advantage on attacks is a huge boon over the life of a character. Other than the multiclassing exploit, I think this is a solid feature.
  • Because you don’t have a favored terrain, an extra application of your proficiency bonus on Int and Wis checks related to it are necessarily gone. This is a fairly paltry trade for the three features listed above.
  • The rest of the features remain the same.

I’m still sad that Fighting Style hasn’t been expanded to offer Protection or Great Weapon styles, and don’t really understand why they hedge on supporting shield rangers or greatsword rangers like that. Easy houserule, but still!

Next up is Primeval Awareness, another major flaw of the Original ranger. (For more analysis on this flaw, see Colin’s thorough examination.) Almost everything about this feature’s new form is an expansion of utility. First off, it allows animal empathy without spell use, which is a great support of theme. I see Mick “Crocodile” Dundee in the first half of this feature, and that makes me happy. Rangers now have primeval awareness of their favored enemies rather than unnatural creatures, which narrows overall function but fits it to the individual ranger a lot better. This sense also provides approximate distance and direction, if within 5 miles. This is the clause that fixed what was broken in the original version. There’s no question in my mind that this is a huge improvement.

Ranger Archetypes are now called Ranger Conclaves. It implies a story where “archetype” did not, even if it’s a small thing. I’ll handle the three Conclaves later on in this article.

Extra Attack is gone, and has been replaced by a Conclave feature. That’s kinda weird, especially since two of the three subclasses just get Extra Attack at this level, but it lets them make the Beast Conclave look less like a dilution of power. I’ll come back to this.

I mentioned Greater Favored Enemy before, and here it is. This sets you up to fight one of the bigger, more fantastical threats of mid-to-high-level D&D, without having to choose them at lower levels and be stuck with them. It also scales up the damage bonus of your Favored Enemy feature. A +4 flat add is more memorable than +2, I guess. I would still like a dice add more than a flat add, because it makes crits a little more interesting and I find dice easier to remember, but this is pretty nitpicky. Overall I like what goes on here.

Land’s Stride is completely gone. Its first half went to Natural Explorer, as I mentioned, while its second half is completely gone. (It didn’t come up that often in most campaigns, and will scarcely be missed.) In its place is Fleet of Foot, which lets you Dash as a bonus action. This is very good and will come up often, though any additional competition for bonus actions is a tough call for rangers and applies a lot of pressure in toward archers and away from two-weapon-fighting rangers. (Colin has commentary on this, too.) I like that this improves their skirmishing potential and helps them keep up with rogues, though it would help a lot if they had Disengage as an additional option here. They have to wait until 14th level to pick up the third part of Cunning Action (Hide as a bonus action, that is).

Hide in Plain Sight went from 1-minute setup to no setup, which honors the implication of its name a little better. It might strain believability to achieve such an effect in an action, but the fantastical things other classes get at this level of play makes this seem just fine. The degree of preparation that the Original version of the feature required is such that it shouldn’t have been a feature, but a default thing that anyone could try to achieve.

Vanish and Feral Senses are unchanged.

Foe Slayer used to be the only place you got a damage bonus against your favored enemies. Now it’s a once-per-turn boost to an attack or damage roll, equal to your Wisdom bonus. This is nice, and overall much better than the original version, but it’s still one of the least impressive 20th-level class features in the game.

Overall, the core of the class is a lot beefier, with a lot more going on at low to mid levels. It tapers off in compelling features as you advance, but that’s common across most classes, and is balanced by what goes on in the Conclaves. So let’s get to that part of the story.

 

The Beast Conclave

The Original Beast Master archetype was the other most derided part of the Original ranger. Its issues are too extensive to deal with here, but the short version is that the ranger gave up making their own attacks so that the companion could attack, where other archetypes were a clearer increase in power. A whole lot changes in this revision, starting with the types of animals you can choose – the list has narrowed somewhat. I’d like to see it broadened again, as there are no birds or other flying creatures on this list. More than that, it should incorporate some fantastical creatures – getting outlandish animal companions is one of the great appeals of playing a Hunter in WoW, after all. The companion becomes more of a rules chassis and less like its Monster Manual form, losing Multiattack but gaining the ranger’s proficiency bonus to everything that normally gains proficiency bonuses, as well as AC and damage rolls. This is a pretty solid way to standardize the creatures’ power levels; I also appreciate that there’s a thematic reason offered for stripping Multiattack. On the other hand, the listed options for animal companions are not created equal. As others are pointing out, black bears have a decisive starting advantage over other beasts, and while that lead is diluted as you advance, it’s always present.

The companion also gains hit dice and ability score points when the ranger does. That should be a huge increase in durability (as Con now matters, and scales), which was one of the major shortcomings of the previous version. They even remembered to make it scale up when you gain non-ranger levels, so multiclass rangers stay viable. It acts on a turn of its own, which is yet another huge improvement. The beast has its own personality features, which is cool. Finally, it gains your bonuses from Favored Enemy and Greater Favored Enemy, which is good for making sure it matters to every Conclave.

The Beast Conclave never teaches Extra Attack, and it’s the only one of these that doesn’t. However, Coordinated Attack has changed to emphasize the beast as a main damage-dealing component of the team – it has its own turn and attacks then (if you tell it to), and again on your turn when you Attack, by spending its reaction. It does have some stiff competition for its reaction, later in the Conclave progression. It also means that actions spent casting a spell or doing anything else reduce the beast’s damage output.

Because the beast doesn’t need creative ways to do more stuff on the ranger’s turn anymore, Exceptional Training is gone and replaced with Beast’s Defense at 7th level. This is another great survivability increase.

At 11th level, the beast gets Storm of Claws and Fangs, which is a fancy way to say that it can spend its action to make the equivalent of a Whirlwind Attack. The scale of improvement over Bestial Fury in the original Beast Master is incredible, but needed.

Share Spells is gone, which is a bit of a shame, but it’s replaced with Superior Beast’s Defense. This is the competition for the beast’s reaction that I mentioned. Most of the time, you want to save your reaction to deal more damage, but I can at least imagine times when this is the right answer.

Overall, the Beast Master went from underwhelming to extremely competitive. I would play one tomorrow and expect to have a good time doing it. Every element is more compelling – I cannot say enough good here. In the right circumstance, the Beast Conclave ranger may deliver more attacks per round – a theoretical peak of 11 attacks in a round, or 12 with haste (8 from SoC&F, 1 from ranger’s action, 1 from ranger’s bonus action to fight with two weapons, 1 from the beast’s reaction). Getting to apply the ranger’s proficiency bonus to damage in nine of those cases doesn’t hurt either. It is still the case that relying on a beast companion means that a bunch of your core combat features might be unavailable because your beast is dead or socially unacceptable (“The giant weasel won’t go into the meeting with the duke, out of professional courtesy”). That’s not really fixable, but the ranger is still fairly potent without the beast. Better off than a wizard in a wild or dead magic zone, anyway.

 

The Hunter Conclave

The Hunter Conclave didn’t change at all, except that it now grants Extra Attack instead of the core of the class granting that. The problem with the Hunter continues to be that it wants you to choose whether you are melee or ranged, and that’s contrary to class theme and ideal compelling gameplay design. I would prefer that the 11th level feature were either Extra Attack 2, or granted both Whirlwind Attack and Volley. Choosing between the two at the time you gain the level is a pointless limitation, since you could never use them simultaneously.

 

The Deep Stalker Conclave

The Deep Stalker Conclave is a close cousin of the Deep Stalker we saw in Light, Dark, Underdark! last year. Underdark Scout is still strong, but instead of letting you hide as a bonus action (and stealing thunder from Vanish much, much later), it makes you better at hiding from creatures with darkvision. Using this part of the feature well requires a subtle understanding of 5e’s rules on lighting conditions and how darkvision interacts with them. I wonder how this interfaces with Devil’s Sight and other darkvision-but-better features.

Deep Stalker Magic is the same, and I still don’t get how it fits the theme. After that you gain Extra Attack at 5th level. Iron Mind at 7th level and Stalker’s Flurry at 11th level are unchanged. Stalker’s Dodge has a more complicated implementation of when you declare that you are using it, theoretically requiring the DM to announce the number on the die but not whether the attack is a hit or a miss. This generally slows down resolution at the table and should be avoided, in my view; I’d rather see plain old Uncanny Dodge here. Overall, the Deep Stalker is balance-neutral compared to its predecessor, but a little more complicated.

 

Conclusion

I am a huge fan of this revision, all things considered. There are a few flaws – humanoids as a favored enemy option, some clearly-superior beast companions, some increased pressure on an already tight action economy that disproportionately affects one fighting style – but on the whole it’s immensely more viable. The improvement in the Beast Conclave is probably the most striking part of the whole thing, but Natural Explorer has firmly crossed from being solely about exploration into offering serious combat throughput as well.

When Mearls started revising the ranger, he laid out Guardian, Skirmisher, and Wanderer as three key themes of the ranger. The combat sense of Guardian didn’t see a lot of help here, as Hunter is the only thing that supports it directly, and Hunter didn’t change, though the increased toughness of beasts makes Beast rangers fairly strong at locking down areas of a battlefield. The damage boost against favored enemies may point to this theme as well. I would urge them to push this just a little further with more support for shield rangers, and more spells to improve guardianship themes. The changes to Primeval Awareness are great for out-of-combat definitions of Guardian, including ways to avoid fights completely. Skirmisher and Wanderer saw a huge boost in the Natural Explorer rework, and in trading Land’s Stride for Fleet of Foot, and in making Hide in Plain Sight much easier to use.

The text says that there will probably be a few more changes between this document and the final. I think they’re in a really good place here, and I would houserule this class only slightly for my own campaign. (Humanoids are a great majority of the opposition in my campaign, see.)

I’ll be curious to see whether the revised ranger makes it into the SRD. I dearly hope so – as someone who has released a PDF of ranger archetypes (and thank you so much to everyone who has bought a copy!), I would like to update the work to fit with the revision.

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  • Good stuff. I dropped a comment about this on the early story I wrote when this first came out.

  • MTi

    Hah, I was ready to comment on a possible revision of your work, but the final sentence came up.

    Great analysis, as ever.

    It seems that they are on a correct path with this new Ranger, the majority of the Internet is enthused with it.

    On a whole, the “Extra Crispy” Ranger is something close to modern real-life Rangers, easily adaptable to new environment, mobile and they can deliver a deadly first strike.

    Having said that, the new Natural Explorer is much much better than the old one. Dropping the favored terrain feature alone does the trick.

    The new Favored Enemy (-ies) are nice. I found interesting the fact that they narrow down the options at 1st level, as they do not find logical for a Ranger initiate to know how to fight dragons. This is easily fixed with a houserule though. I’ll second the thoughts about the various boni in 5e, it seems like they could not steer clear of that one. Anyhow, the new mechanic is not that bad and the +4 is a hefty boost even for 6th level.

    Also, the new Beast Master is by leagues a better option than the previous one; the beast is now an asset and not a liability. Only concern is the resurrection option of the pet. The given rules state that you only need the animal’s soul to return, you can “use your magic to create a new body for it”. Well, this is a bit vague and I can think of many players who would like to stretch the hell out of it (“yes, it is a T-Rex with the soul of my beloved cat, I call her Scribbles”). Furthermore, I too found the list a bit too restricted and odd but I believe they are going to fix this, it is a UA article after all.

    The other two Archetypes, no sorry, Conclaves, are pretty much the same, I like that they incorporated Deep Stalker to the core class though.

    All in all, I like it. I would like to playtest it. Now I’d like to see a spell-less version too.

    • The narrower list of Favored Enemy options might be about the logic of a first-level dragon hunter, but also is about just siloing choices so that, in general, the right concepts are in competition with one another. (Humanoids notwithstanding.) The perpetual issue with dragons as favored enemies is… how many dragon-type creatures do you fight in a campaign? I don’t know that I’ve ever run a campaign where that number got out of low single digits. That’s also true of fey prior to 5e, I suppose, but I do write this whole article series about changing that. 😉

      On “create a new body for it,” I think there has to be some standard of reasonableness assumed on the part of the reader, as well as authority to say “ha ha no, now sit down” on the part of the DM. With an explicit creature list and guidance on general values that are okay for things outside that list, WotC has done their due diligence here. We aren’t well-served to demand more intensive legalism in rules phrasing.

      I foresee a huge influx of third-party releases of suitable beasts, if this article reaches the SRD fairly intact. I could absolutely see writing toned-down stat blocks for lions, eagles, the OTHER kind of raptors, big blue oxen, jhereg (“Winged venomous reptiles, boy! Do you wanna get sued?”), and a ton of other things. Hell, I’d write it myself.

      Mearls has made it pretty clear (https://twitter.com/mikemearls/status/739665807714590724) that the 5e ranger is a spellcaster and that’s that. Insofar as he’s beholden to the history of the class in D&D, that’s the only available answer really – 4e was the clear outlier. I think we’ll eventually see the fighter’s Scout archetype in a full release, though.

    • MTi

      Yeah, I know the spellcaster-Ranger is canon (or cannon, well why not) and I have no objection about that. It’s just now that the class is up to a big revamp, the spell-less version would be cool to have, as with the PHB original class (or Ranger 5e v.0).

      Hell, I might even try to convert it myself.

      The Scout is very cool. It was my favorite kit conversion in that particular UA article.

  • yama

    On the whole I like this rewrite and I agree with most of your points. Mostly it’s good, the Beast Conclave seems like a pretty solid fix for beastmaster, not convinced by the favored enemy damage bonus, etc.

    Where I diverge most is Primeval Awareness as I don’t agree that it’s fixed.

    Providing approximate distance and direction fixes one part of what made it broken, but it ignores the other problematic element and actually makes it much, much worse.

    To wit, and this is a point Colin also made in that article you linked, the area of effect of this ability is actually huge. In the old version it was practically a given that a favored enemy *would* be within 6 miles of the ranger. And with the DM only being required to say “yes at least one of your favored enemy are in the area” it was generally pointless.

    In this new version we see an ability that from the player’s perspective is not pointless – it stands to be extremely informative. They can find out if any favored enemies are present within 5 miles (so a slight reduction, but this is still a very large sample area), their numbers, and their approximate direction and distance. It’s even clarified that if there are multiple groups you learn this information for each group.

    Suddenly, this is a bigger mental tax on the DM. And with certain favored enemy groups, it should be immediately obvious that the required level of detail is insane.The number of a given favored enemy that might appear within 5 miles of the ranger could potentially be HUGE. Typically this is likely to be a problem 100% of the the time if the favoured enemy chosen is Beasts, maybe around 90% of the time if the favored enemy are Humanoids. In certain contexts, the problem could also occur with other groups (such as Fey encountered within the Feywild)

    Let’s take Beasts as the most obviously extreme example. As written, the DM now theoretically needs to know exactly how many animals *and* insects are within 5 miles of the ranger in any direction. That’s nuts! Furthermore, the approximate location within that large area of each grouping, plus the number of animals and insects in each grouping. It’s clearly an impossible ask.

    From the DM’s perspective, I can only see this version of the ability as being much, much, much more problematic. The only way out of a situation like that is to say “there are loads of them, in all directions” which (a) means that you’re not actually not giving the right information as per the ability and (b) it pretty much reverts the ability to its previous state of being pointless. Too much information becomes the same as not enough information.

    I think perhaps Humanoids and Beasts need to be broken down into smaller subcategories for this and other reasons. Even then I reckon the ability needs wording to the effect that the ranger has to sense for a specific type of creature that happens to belong to their favored enemy type in order to get a signal from the noise.

    One thing I didn’t like about Greater Favored Enemy: advantage to saving throws against spells and abilities applying only to the greater favored enemy you pick, and not retroactively applying to the original favored enemy. I appreciate the balance concern here – the lesser favored enemies are supposed to be encountered more commonly so advantage on saves is a bigger deal (although I don’t really agree that Fey are less rare than Aberrations. Maybe Undead, but maybe not. Doesn’t it really depend on the campaign?)

    But, balance concerns notwithstanding, for me this simply doesn’t fit with the fiction. The first favored enemy is the one that my ranger has hated and hunted all along. And now 6th level drops and suddenly I’m actually better at hunting something else entirely.

    Fixing this is, I think, as simple as breaking Beasts and Humanoids down into subcategories as already suggested, and treating all favored enemy groups as equal. 6th level is simply when you get your 2nd favored enemy, and from 6th level on you get the advantage to saving throws against both types.

    Other than those, I don’t have any more major concerns. Just a minor niggle regarding Natural Explorer.

    The advantage on initiative rolls and against enemies that haven’t acted seem *entirely* non-relevant to an ability called “Natural Explorer”.

    It’s a very minor point, but I would rather see these broken out into a separate ability granted at the same level named “Ambush Tactics” or whatever.

    • MTi

      “Ambush Tactics” was the relevant name of the Ranger Variant ability in UA last year, wasn’t it?

      Anyhow, solid points.

      I did actually miss the power of the revamped Primeval Awareness. All a fantasy general needed is to put 5 Rangers lying on the ground in intervals of 10 miles and they would do effective recon for a total of 392.5 sq.miles. That is ridiculously lot.

      As per the detail on the Greater Favored Enemy, I’m pretty sure one of the following happened:
      1. They generally took for granted that Favored Enemies (i.e. the ones you have in lvl 1) are in total low-level threats with limited to zero spells and like abilities.
      2. They forgot to extend this benefit to Favored Enemies as well when you reach level 6

      Your argument is solid enough though.

    • In my opinion and with all respect, the critique you have laid out here sort of loses the forest for the trees. Colin delved into the detail of “how would this work at maximum realism” because (this is my opinion, again – Colin can speak for himself) the original Primeval Awareness ALSO failed on a reasonable-use, reduced-realism level. Specifically, he was addressing arguments made elsewhere.

      The new Primeval Awareness probably does completely fail when it comes to humanoids and beasts, in the majority of environments. If you’re in anything but the most barren environments, it’s about useless for those two types. On the other hand, that’s obvious on its face, and I would expect almost all DMs to respond with “enormous, barely-distinguishable numbers of individuals and groups.” Players should learn not to use it for that purpose, but to find dragons, fiends, giants, undead – that kind of thing. Using Primeval Awareness to attempt to ascertain that there aren’t any creatures of a particular type around DOES cause some logical problems with not-yet-rolled random encounters.

      How does someone even GAIN dragon-hunting or giant-hunting training at 1st level? For as long as there have been multiple options for favored enemies, rangers have gone from no training to some or all the training in a single level gain. Nothing in gaining a level makes literal sense when scrutinized, because it favors satisfying play over realistic play. Also, Greater Favored Enemy doesn’t make you better at hunting something else (except for the saving throw thing, which matters a lot more with the Gr Favored Enemy list) – it makes you AS good.

      Subdividing Beasts further would marginally improve Primeval Awareness functions, but make it even LESS competitive with the other Favored Enemy options. Other than campaigns that simply have no undead, I would be surprised if anyone chose Beasts as-is, much less when they’re getting the benefit half as often. In many, many cases, there’s no amount of sudividing that would help humanoid favored enemies work well with Primeval Awareness.

      The Natural Explorer features you call out don’t have much to do with exploration, but in this draft they’re clearly bending over backwards to change as few feature names and introduce as few completely new features as possible, for a nominal ease-of-use gain. I’ll be curious to see if that survives into the final release.

    • Colin McLaughlin

      You’re correct. My critique is just showing how thorough of a failure the skill is. I don’t care about realism at all if the game is fun, but even from a simulationist perspective, it doesn’t meet the bar.

    • Marandahir

      If a Ranger is a master tracker, couldn’t Primeval Awareness be tinkered to be that if something is within the broad category of your FEs (for example, I want to hunt a bear, which is a beast), you can focus your senses on that particular species? It wouldn’t let you say, “I want to hunt Acererak the Demilich” but perhaps could tell you if there are any liches within your 5 mile radius (if any) and what direction they’re hiding?

    • I certainly like that idea for most favored enemies, and I could at least accept it for the cases where it bugs me for no particularly good reason (undead, fiends, celestials, maybe aberrations).

  • Tony Russo

    Let’s look at what’s been redefined. One of the biggest changes is
    that Favored Enemy got split into Favored Enemy and Greater Favored
    Enemy. Where Original grants three favored enemies (at 1st, 6th, and 14th), Extra Crispy grants one choice from one list at 1st, and one choice from a second, more fantastical and high-powered list at 6th. The first list only offers beasts, fey, humanoids, monstrosities, and undead. Treating
    “humanoids” as a single type for this purpose is straight-out shocking,
    and I can’t help but hope that gets split up a bit in final form. I
    expect that in most campaigns, humanoids are by far and away the most
    common foes throughout the course of play; undead are a somewhat distant
    second place. (Obviously, no statement is true for all games.)

    This favored enemy thing actually really intrigues me. The categories HAVE to be super-broad or it never really comes up, but if you GO super-broad then you usually wind up having one option be clearly superior. I’m gonna try to break this down:

    95 different types of beasts

    70 different types of humanoids (including the NPC’s in the back.

    51 different types of monstrosities

    35 different types of undead

    9 kinds of Fey

    Humanoids have the second-most variety in the monster manual, but they are definitely the most common enemies player’s run into. Monstrosities are the next most numerous after humans and I personally think they are the next most common. The problem is that Monstrosities don’t really have a distinct identity and so it doesn’t really register. Undead aren’t that numerous but are pretty common, and Fey are very rare AND the least numerous by far.

    Beasts are the most numerous, but have three problems:

    1. Beasts tend to congregate only in the Wilderness. You don’t generally see beasts in cities, for example. This means campaigns either wind up with people facing MOSTLY beasts or almost no beasts at all.

    2. Beasts only go up to Challenge Rating 8, and the game’s balance is built around Beasts only getting that strong (due to Shapeshifting and Polymorph)

    3. There are a lot of creatures that seem like they would intuitively be Beasts, but are in fact Monstrosities when you look up the creature type. This includes Owlbears, Bullete, and Griffins. This is another big part of Monstrosities lack of identity.

    So, between these choices Humanoids is definitely the best. Beasts are good, but they tend to disappear from the game at high levels, monstrosities are pretty good but it’s hard to tell if you are fighting one or not. And Undead are kind of alright. If I were designing a new ranger, I would keep Humanoid the way it is and try to buff the other choices to be up to its level. Here’s my rough idea of how to pull it off:

    Favored Enemy : Beginning at 1st level, you have significant experience studying, tracking, hunting and even talking to a certain type of enemy commonly encountered in the wilds. Choose one of the following options:

    Frontier guardian: Living on the fringes of society, you’ve had to become and expert at dealing with tribes of people different than you. You gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with weapon attacks against Humanoids. Additionally, you have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track Humanoids and on Intelligence checks to recall information about them. You learn one additional language commonly spoken by Humanoids.

    Lone Survivor: Living in areas devoid of contact with others, you’ve had to become an expert at fighting off dangerous Predators. You gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with weapon attacks against Beasts, plants, and Monstrosities. Additionally, you have advantage on Wisdom (Survival)
    checks to track Humanoids and on Intelligence checks to recall information about them. You gain proficiency in the Wisdom (Animal Handling) skill.

    • The always excellent Marsupialmancer proposed the following in his homebrewed ranger rebuild, posted last October (and linked above):

      Peerless Hunter

      The ranger is especially skilled at hunting and dispatching prey. At 1st level, the ranger chooses a group from the list below. You have advantage when making Wisdom (Survival) checks to track these foes, or when making Intelligence checks to recall facts about them. Additionally, you know how to hit them where it hurts; you gain a bonus to damage rolls equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of +1) against any foe belonging to that category.
      * Border Warden: Humanoids (all nonhuman monstrous races, from goblins to giants)
      * Bounty Hunter: Humanoids (all player character races presented in the Player’s Handbook)
      * Destroyer of the Lifeless: Constructs, Oozes, and Undead
      * Foe of the Monstrous: Aberrations, Dragons, and Monstrosities
      * Nature’s Culling: Beasts, Fey, and Plants
      * Slayer of Outsiders: Celestials, Elementals, and Fiends

      It’s pointing toward the same general issues as you’re talking about, but resolves it by grouping types. Obviously, in an Extra Crispy ranger environment, you’d isolate Foe of the Monstrous and Slayer of Outsiders in Greater Favored Enemy, or uncouple those groupings entirely.

      Stands-in-Fire did something similar in his rebuild, but he went down to three groups of enemies: Natural, Unnatural, and Supernatural. Check it out!

    • Colin McLaughlin

      I did. I gave them die based on their proficiency to spend against their foe in a few ways. They picked a category twice, and got subchoices when they leveled.

  • Ex_Phase

    Hello, wanted to point out that there is a gruesome application to the resurrection of the animal companion.

    The article clearly states that a beast conclave ranger can restore a former companion, not just the one directly before due to semantics. If I were playing a chaotic neutral character or worse, I would constantly rotate companions by killing them before resurrecting the one I want. This is so the companion doesn’t leave once the new one is brought back. Now I have access to their soul once I need them again.

    • That is a really long way to go to save 25 gp. A PC doing this in my campaign would need to find a new subclass, as this is an obvious, deliberate violation of the bond between ranger and beast companion, and the beast should smell the stink of that betrayal.

    • Ex_Phase

      Isn’t the 25 gold still paid anyway? Of course it’s a crazy thing to do. I personally wouldn’t do it.

      The idea was more about creating a library of spirits of companions that are specialized for particular jobs. This is possible given that you can select 2 skill proficiencies for them now.

      Again I personally wouldn’t do it, but given that its possible I would arbitrate it as at least the last companion, not any former one.

      Besides if I played a nature based class as a chaotic neutral they’d be an eco terrorist fighting against the encroachment of civilization.

    • Right, you’re paying 25 gp and 8 hours instead of 50 gp and 8 hours.

      Rules to block a mechanically mild exploit (a long rest and 25 gp to respend your animal companion… woo) would be either convoluted or overly restrictive to rangers who got into a bad situation, so I think that DM enforcement of theme is a preferable solution to a hard rule.

    • Coactus

      As with anything like this, you can put forth whatever rationale you want for it, but the DM an always say “You’re full of crap and you’re just trying to justify it” and say no.

      Like my DM back in 3E had to do when our Paladin of Freedom CHA Psion had his thralls carry his magic items and kill his opponents so he could maintain his Vow of Poverty and his Vow of Peace.

      Read that whole paragraph again, just in case you missed how insane it was.

  • Henrique Andrade

    Personally I think 2 kinds of humanoids is just a terrible choice of favored enemy as Fey. And Undead/Monstrosity has a lot more longevity than humanoid as per the enemies you will be fighting after level 10. Humanoids are the biggest category but they are for the most part CR 5 or lower creatures. Kobolds, Goblinoids, Orcs, Gnolls, Kuo Toa, Bullywugs, Aarakocra. There are the NPC stat blocks but they are also very few, and less likely to be used by DMs except in niche campaigns at higher levels, unlike the other niche Favored Enemies (Giants, Constructs, Dragons) which you able to pick from at level 6 when you have a big idea of what’s gonna happen.

    • I have a completely different set of assumptions about the antagonists PCs face at high levels, as the article makes clear.

  • Colin McLaughlin

    I have a lot of thoughts and feelings on this UA. First, at least they are fully embracing they have a problem with ranger design, and weren’t scared by their previous Hot Mess ft. 2d6 Hit Die (you can find their mix tape on SoundCloud probably). As someone who spent a lot of time and put themselves out there with a ranger rework, I am very happy with them moving to conclaves as a thematic choice. I have long held that organizations are part of what make rangers what they are, and this seems to trend in that direction. As I did similar, I, selfishly, like the movement here.

    Natural Explorer is a little crazy pants. The Half-sassin parts of the feature feel off, given the rest of the skill. There is room for it, sure, but that just feels like the wrong place, to me. I understand the desire to give some cohesion to the upper portion of the class features, like HiPS and Vanish by implementing some more rogue-ish features, but some more thought is needed here, in my opinion.

    There is no doubt Primeval Awareness is better, but it needs to be reconsidered a bit. First, I love the first portion of it. (I would have liked to see this rolled in with the whole plants thing that used to exist with Land’s Stride had going on, but I don’t really care that much. I just like using plants and magical plants as terrain. I can live.) The limitation to favored enemies is fine, I guess. I am glad it no longer requires spell slot use, but having it be an unlimited thing is sorta nuts. It provides so much information now, for no cost other than one minute. Even though the range issues I wrote about still apply (5 isn’t much better than 6), the specific information is a lot better. The Drive Me Crazy potential is very high. It needs some consideration.

    Likewise, I am sad not to see an expansion of fighting styles, but I didn’t expect it. Fleet of Foot is cool, and it’s good to see some emphasis on ranger movement, but I think this should have been disengage. Part of the ranger legacy is swapping between ranged and melee (part of my issue with Hunter Conclave in general). It also further competes as a bonus action with some of the best and most used ranger spells. Two Weapon Fighting takes a beating once you get to this stage, even more so than the very significant one it faces before. I keep getting told I am wrong, so take that as you will 🙂

    I don’t like what they did with Favored Enemy and Greater Favored Enemy. Remember when more classes got dice to do stuff with as a resource? I sure do. I don’t like the flat bonuses here, especially without limitation. The advantages on spells and abilities for greater enemies is a neat idea, but honestly I’d like to see that reconsidered into something more active, like a reaction.

    This is long, so I will end on Hunter Conclave. I am sad it was not overhauled. The entire thing is still based on weapon choice as your limiter. I mean it’s not explicitly, but it totally is.

  • Matthew Agler

    I’ve loved the ranger class since 3e. I played a swift hunter ranger back then (which mixed the scout class with ranger for skirmish damage instead of sneak attack). Whole lot of fun with the battlefield mobility. I am currently playing my first 5e game with a Bard. I looked at Ranger but wasn’t sold. I may drop in on a high level game once in a while and I’ve been playing with a Ranger Rogue build. Although the synergy with Assassin is undeniable, I like the in and out of combat utility of the arcane trickster. little charm, little illusion, plus a familiar to go with the deep stalker ranger. I initially looked at the hunter conclave for the extra attack (possibility of 4 with crossbow expert) but I opted for the utility abilities that come with deep stalker. Darkvision for humans!

    I can see the DM being concerned about the power boost that was given to Primeval Awareness, and the overly broad FE category of all humanoids. It really does become the one true choice at 3rd. I like the option presented below of grouping them. One thing to remember about applying that advantage to saves to the lower tier of FE is that suddenly the ranger can have advantage to all saves by human/elf/etc wizards. That’s just crazy.

    The things I’m thinking he would looked crossways at are the advantage on initiative, broad application of FE categories, and cheap and easy Primeval Awareness.

    Primeval Awareness can easily be brought down a notch by limiting it to Wis Mod per long (or short) rest.

    I’ll propose the below-listed favored enemy categories. As for the advantage on initiative, we are assuming this is only in natural settings, right?

    For a 14th level character, I put together a Arcane Trickster 6, Deep Stalker 8 character, on variant human with crossbow expert and sharpshooter. This allows 4 attacks in first round, then 2-3 in subsequent rounds (depending on bonus action use). Expertise in Stealth, Perception, Investigation, and Deception. As this is based off the charlatan background, there is some RP use with impersonations and false identities. Going for a bounty hunter concept. humanoids as first FE, aberrations at second to fit the deep stalker theme (advantage for saves against flayers and beholders? Yes please.

    • Do you really encounter enough beasts in a common game day that limiting it to 1-3 uses per short or per long rest (let’s assume most rangers weigh in between 12 and 16 Wis for most of their careers) is significantly DIFFERENT from always-on? I totally acknowledge that this might be a thing and our campaigns are dissimilar – that’s why I’m asking.

      You can change Natural Explorer’s initiative advantage to work only in natural environments, but there’s no question that that ISN’T what’s in the rule-as-written. I will say, though, that advantage on initiative checks is a standard racial ability in my homebrewed setting, and it is just not that dominating. It’s good, and it matters more for rogues and the revised ranger than other classes, but it’s not a guarantee of anything and its value is basically zero after the first round of engagement.

  • jb

    I like a lot of what is changed here, but my general dislike for the class is the heavy need for magic. Hunters mark should be a skill, requiring concentration, not a spell. This simple “spell” is necessary to keep up with most other classes especially fighters. It also takes an entire action to set up instead of a bonus action, basically negating the benefits of Natural Explorer. I’ve been playing D&D since the mid eighties, and seem to prefer the 2e version without extra dice rolls and feats and lots of monkey motion just to have your character thump on the bad guy. Other than the quirky THAC0 of the early versions, game mechanics seemed to flow with simplicity.

    • Colin McLaughlin

      Hunter’s Mark is a bonus action.

  • Coactus

    The only reason I ended up rerolling OFF Beast conclave is the consideration that the vast majority of my damage is coming from my beast, which can NEVER have magical attacks aside from through spellcraft. That’s just too much of a hindrance to me. Otherwise I love everything about it.

    • That’s a solid point, and I’d be a bit surprised if it didn’t get patched in whatever final release the Revised Ranger sees. They’re otherwise pretty aggressive in making sure that characters can ignore type-based damage resistances and immunities, if they don’t use conventional weapons. (Conventional weapon-wielders have a harder road, and actually DO need magic weapons to stay involved.)

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